Referee Cuneyt Cakir is not the issue. He's just the tip of the iceberg
By Chris Higham
If it wasn't enough of a nightmare for Manchester United fans to experience the agony of last Tuesday's elimination by Real Madrid at Old Trafford in their Champions League Second Leg decider, then surely today's comments by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir will surely drive them over the edge of the precipice. Cakir today, allegedly stated to a Spanish media outlet that "time will prove him to be correct" in issuing the red card to Nani which effectively led to the destruction of Manchester United's Champions League title hopes for another season. In my view the problem is not with Cakir, it is with the authorities that put him there.
The nature of football makes it a sport of emotion, passion and no small amount of heartache. Its ancient rules remain faithful to the legacy that was created so long ago in a more sedate era, but in the current, modern version of the sport, the rules are proving insufficient to ensure that the people who officiate the matches, do not become the personalities who decide them.
Football's governing bodies have always maintained that "the sport should remain faithful to its roots" and so should not have to go through great reformation of its rules to produce a finished product. However, with the advent of current broadcast technology, social media, and instant global communications, this archaic attitude is threatening to ruin the sport
The stage that was set for Tuesday night pitted the two biggest sporting franchises on the planet in a head-to head meeting in a must win situation. I don't care how much sport you watch, matches like that don't come along very often wherever you may be. One would think, given those circumstances, that the governing body controlling this Champions League Tournament, namely UEFA, would ensure that the officials who were chosen, would be the very best available.
Remember, there was only two European games played that night, this being one, and the major Leagues in Europe were silent. The decks had been cleared for the fans ready for a great spectacle. The world would be watching, but frankly, UEFA dropped a clanger of monumental proportions, and not for the first time. After Turkish referee Cakir brandished his red card so unnecessarily, almost the whole footballing world cried out in anguish.
Ex-players, analysts, ex-referees and commentators almost to a man, decried the decision as wrong, and unjust, but in reality we are only shooting the messenger. The real culprit lies further up the chain.
It's my contention that authorities such as UEFA and FIFA purposely introduce the "human" factor into top matches in the hope of creating controversial incidents that they believe, adds to the passion and the spectacle of the occasion. My reasons are clear. The rules of football are vague at best. For instance, a red card offence is "serious foul play" as is also "foul and abusive language" but referees, almost exclusively, choose to ignore the latter.
An example of discretionary licence. A yellow card, in the context of physical play, is only applicable to "a player who consistently infringes on the Laws of the Game". Strictly speaking then, when Nani challenged Alvaro Arbeloa on Tuesday night, his high boot is punishable with a red card, but the ambiguity of the laws of the game, allow the referee to use his own judgement. There is the loophole. Referees are not enforcing laws, they are using guidelines at their own discretion to make decisions which is a fundamental difference.
The laws are structured to allow a referee, if he wants, to brandish a yellow or red card for almost any physical contact. It is a question of degree.
If we look at referee Cakir's history, particularly when officiating English clubs, there is a very distinct trend. He has sent off 5 players from English clubs without one player from an opposing team. In his previous eight matches in the Turkish League, he has shown 3 red cards, and 36 yellows. Extrapolate that over a full season and you end up with a grand total of 14 red cards and a massive 171 yellows.
Now let me clarify here. I'm not suggesting Mr Cakir is a cheat. Far from it. I'm suggesting that he applies the letter of the law in its strictest sense, and consequently, as a result, affects the outcome of the matches he referees. Therefore, my point is why on earth would you want to elect this man as your referee in a game of this magnitude, knowing his history? To me, there is only one reason, and that is to cause possible dispute and controversy. None of what we saw on Tuesday night should have surprised anyone in UEFA or frankly, even the clubs. It was almost more likely to happen rather than not.
In fact, the archaic manner in which both FIFA and UEFA administer the rules of football is an ongoing disgrace. Look at the snail-like way they have moved towards implementing goal-line technology. These organisations are not pro-active in any shape or form.
They are blindly reactive, only choosing to respond once their cushy, ivory towered world is threatened by the common man in the street. It is time to draw the line and adjust the way the game is played with reference to the modern game and society in general. The laws need refining to take out the ambiguity that exists, or fundamentally change the methods officials use to do their job. Referees need the help of technology to eliminate themselves from deciding the result of an important match.
There is too much money at stake today for this not to happen.
Mediocrity from our ruling bodies has become acceptable. It's my contention that it must now become unacceptable for fans and paying customers to be cheated out of receiving the very best quality product for the extortionate amount of money they hand over as paying customers. When you have the very best sides in the sport out on the field, don't the fans deserve to have the very best officials out there too using state of the art technology, and as a consequence, allow the players to decide the outcome?
I think so. Don't you?